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But that Poetry and Virtue go always together is an opinion fo pleafing, that I can forgive him who refolves to think it true.
The third ftanza founds big with Delphi, and Egean, and Iliffus, and Meander, and hallowed fountain and folemn found; but in all Gray's odes there is a kind of cumbrous fplendor which we with away. His pofition is at laft falfe: in the time of Dante and Petrarch, from whom he derives our first school of Poetry, Italy was over-run by tyrant power and coward vice; nor was our state much better when we firft borrowed the Italian arts.
Of the third ternary, the first gives a mythological birth of Shakspeare. What is faid of that mighty genius is true; but it is not faid happily: the real effects of this poetical power are put out of fight by the pomp of machinery. Where truth is fufficient to fill the mind, fiction is worse than ufelefs; the counterfeit debafes the genuine.
His account of Milton's blindness, if we fuppofe it caused by study in the formation of his poem, a fuppofition furely allowable, is poetically true, and happily imagined. But the car of Dryden, with his two courfers, has nothing in it peculiar; it is a car in which any other rider may be placed.
The Bard appears, at the first view, to be, as Algarotti and others have remarked, an imitation of the prophecy of Nereus. Algarotti thinks it fuperior to its original; and, if preference depends only on the imagery and animation of the two poems, his judgement is right. There is in The Bard more force, more thought, and more variety. But to copy is lefs than to invent, and the copy has been unhappily produced ta wrong time. The fiction of Horace was to the VOL. IV, X
Romans credible; but its revival difgufts us with ap parent and unconquerable falfehood. Incredulus odi.
To felect a fingular event, and fwell it to a giant's bulk by fabulous appendages of fpectres and predictions, has little difficulty; for he that forfakes the probable may always find the marvellous. And it has little ufe; we are affected only as we believe; we are improved only as we find fomething to be imitated or declined. I do not fee that The Bard promotes any truth, moral or political.
His ftanzas are too long, efpecially his epodes; the ode is finished before the ear has learned its measures, and confequently before it can receive pleafure from their confonance and recurrence.
Of the first stanza the abrupt beginning has been celebrated; but technical beauties can give praise only to the inventor. It is in the power of any man to rush abruptly upon his fubject, that has read the ballad of Johnny Armstrong,
Is there ever a man in all Scotland
The initial refemblances, or alliterations, ruin, ruthlefs, helm or hauberk, are below the grandeur of a poem that endeavours at fublimity.
In the fecond ftanza the Bard is well defcribed; but in the third we have the puerilities of obfolete mythology. When we are told that Cadwallo bush'd the formy main, and that Modred made huge Plinlimmon bow his cloud-top'd head, attention recoils from the repetition of a tale that, even when it was first heard, was heard with fcorn.
The weaving of the winding Sheet he borrowed, as he owns, from the northern Bards; but their texture, however, was very properly the work of female powers,
as the art of fpinning the thread of life in another mythology. Theft is always dangerous; Gray has made weavers of his flaughtered bards, by a fiction outrageous and incongruous. They are then called upon to Weave the warp, and weave the woof, perhaps with no great propriety; for it is by croffing the woof with the warp that men weave the web or piece; and the first Ene was dearly bought by the admiffion of its wretched. correfpondent, Give ample room and verge enough. He has, however, no other line as bad.
The third ftanza of the fecond ternary is commended, I think, beyond its merit. The perfonification is indiftinct. Thirst and Hunger are not alike; and their features, to make the imagery perfect, fhould have been difcriminated. We are told, in the fame ftanza, how towers are fed. But I will no longer look for particular faults; yet let it be obferved that the ode might have been concluded with an action of better example; but fuicide is always to be had, without expence of thought.
These odes are marked by glittering accumulations of ungraceful ornaments; they ftrike, rather than pleafe; the images are magnified by affectation; the language is laboured into harfhnefs. The mind of the writer feems to work with unnatural violence. Double, double, toil and trouble. He has a kind of ftrutting dignity, and is tall by walking on tiptoe. His art and his ftruggle are too vifible, and there is too little appearance of eafe and nature.
To fay that he has no beauties, would be unjuft: a man like him, of great learning and great induftry, could not but produce fomething valuable. When he pleafes leaft, it can only be faid that a good defign was ill directed.
His tranflations of Northern and Welsh Poetry deserve praise; the imagery is preserved, perhaps often improved; but the language is unlike the language of other poets.
In the character of his Elegy I rejoice to concur with the common reader; for by the common sense of readers uncorrupted with literary prejudices, after all the refinements of fubtilty and the dogmatifin of learning, must be finally decided all claim to poetical hoThe Church-yard abounds with images which find a mirrour in every mind, and with fentiments to which every bofom returns an echo. The four stanzas, beginning Yet even these bones, are to me original: I have never feen the notions in any other place; yet he that reads them here perfuades himself that he has always felt them. Had Gray written often thus, it had been vain to blame, and useless to praise him.
EORGE LYTTELTON, the fon of Sir Thomas Lyttelton of Hagley in Worcestershire, was born in 1709. He was educated at Eton, where he was fo much distinguished, that his exercises were recommended as models to his fchool-fellows.
From Eton he went to Chrift-church, where he retained the fame reputation of fuperiority, and difplayed his abilities to the publick in a poem on Blenheim.
He was a very early writer, both in verse and profe. His Progrefs of Love, and his Perfian Letters, were both written when he was very young; and, indeed, the character of a young man is very visible in both. The Verfes cant of fhepherds and flocks, and crooks dreffed with flowers; and the Letters have fomething of that indiftinct and headstrong ardour for liberty which a man of genius always catches when he enters the world, and always fuffers to cool as he paffes forward.
He ftaid not long at Oxford; for in his travels, and faw France and Italy.
1728 he began
When he re